A few days back I happened upon my two oldest (4 and 3 years old) busy at work in my bathroom mixing some “Polyjuice Potion”. They were quite proud of the pink lumpy concoction and offered it to me saying, “We made this for you, mommy. Now you can turn into whatever you like!”
Sweet, sort of.
The potion had, unfortunately, called for nearly all of the beloved bubble bath my husband had gotten me for Valentine’s Day, as well as most of a bottle of chloroseptic spray, a new tube of toothpaste, lotion and was all being mixed together with my toothbrush. As I gazed around the bathroom I had cleaned only 2 days previous I noticed that the potion was not only in the cup. No, they, it seemed, had needed to experiment with the potion’s texture by smearing it all over my mirror, sink, tub and floor.
And I exploded.
I exploded because I had thought (foolishly) that they were upstairs playing some quiet, mess-free game while I took a few minutes to snuggle and read to the one year old downstairs. I exploded because I loved that bubble bath (it was Rosemary Mint…I mean come on!). I exploded because lately it has been problem after problem after bloody problem around here.
Things brake, fingers get stuck in pop cans, shoes get lost, we are late to everything, milk is spilled in fantastic spraying explosions, my phone is stolen and hidden from me, toy boxes are tipped over moments after being filled, and potty training seems to have been totally forgotten and forsaken.
And that is life in these parts right now. Three kids just being kids, doing things that kids do, on a constant mission to play with things that aren’t toys, complain about all meals coming out of my kitchen and always seeking new ways to break, destroy and torment each other–all while a pregnant, crabby mother waddles after them.
I get it, that’s just kids, that’s just this phase, this moment of motherhood for me. But that doesn’t make it easy to live IN THE NOW when I would so much rather escape.
Escape through my phone–Instagram, Facebook, email, all so much easier to control than my brood of kids. Escape through my to-do list, my non-kid goals, my stitching. Just escape.
But I am a stay-at-home mother of 3, soon to be 4, little ones, and there is rarely an escape from the ever screaming, demanding, frustrating NOW, at least not until they are safely asleep in their beds, but even that escape seems fragile.
I often think back to a pseudo-pyschology-ism I heard years ago about one simple question that will predict a person’s happiness. The question is, “Where do you live–in the past, the future or the NOW?” Meaning, where do your thoughts dwell? Where do you spend most of your mental energy–on things that have happened, will happen or are happening right now?
My answer, despite what I know and tried to change about myself, is undoubtedly the future.
This overly simply psychological technique argues that people focused on the future deal with anxiety (um, guilty), those that are stuck in the past struggle with depression and only those that are here, focusing on what is going on NOW, are actually happy–or are, at least, the happiest.
Too simple, yes, but doesn’t it ring with truth?
Does whipping myself into a tizzy worrying that my children will never be fully potty trained, the house never clean, my person goals never met make me any happier? No. Do the moments when I’m playing with the kids, but actually planning supper and blog posts and weekend plans mentally make me feel like a good and loving mother? No.
Likewise, brooding over the words my husband said or the frustrations of the previous day bring no happiness either.
Turns out it is the things I struggle to let myself do that bring happiness. Heading outside and pushing them on the swings, for hours, despite my messy kitchen and to-do list; reading another chapter in our book, even though it is late and this is time I could have to myself; getting down on the floor and putting together another puzzle, big pregnant body and all.
These are the things that actually make me happy.
When I am there, crawling on the floor with them, pushing and pushing them on the swings and my brain is unplugged from whatever fear or plans I am fostering, I am happy and life is good. And I know this–and yet I resist. I drag my feet.
There is something that always seems more important, bigger and more pressing than the NOW, especially the NOW OF LITTLE KIDS. It is a philosophy I unfortunately bought into and cling to.
A few weeks ago I stood chatting with a fellow mother of three little ones while our kids played at a park. With remarkable candor, considering we had just met, she told me that she feared she wasn’t the greatest mother. I reassured her that we all have this fear.
No, she went on, I mean I know my kids have fun and they’re happy, but our house is so disordered! I just can’t seem to remember to do all the little house-keeping things when I’m with them. I get sucked into a game or a book with them and then my husband comes up and the house is a mess and there isn’t any supper.
I touched her arm and reassured her that we all have our struggles…but I can’t help recall her words with a touch of envy.
Our children are the same age and undoubtedly have the same struggles. What a wonderful thing to forsake the “bigger” things for the NOW, to get so lost in these beautiful, small moments, even if the moment is messy and loud, that everything else fades away.
That is the type of mother I want to be. The one with the messy house and no supper–but happy kids convinced that what they are doing or creating right NOW is the most important thing in the world. I am a long ways from the ideal and I fear I’ll never get there–but that is a worry for another day, not for NOW.